Any good copywriter knows how to capture and lead the audience’s wants and capitalize on its needs, and he knows how to help the audience justify assenting to the call to action. All persuasive writing, including marketing messages, asks the audience to agree and to act based on an endless variety of specific reasons.
For example, in a clothing store:
Retail Seller: You look amazing in this dress!
Retail Seller: Absolutely! Add these shoes and you look like a model.
The sales pitch here goes like this: You should buy this outfit because it will make you look like a model.
The call to action is to buy the outfit. The reason is that the customer will look like a model.
But there is a third element here: the value judgment underlying the reason. It is the unstated assumption that the customer wants to look like a model, that for the customer looking like a model is a good thing.
But what if the customer is more concerned about cost than appearance? What if the customer wants to look like a skater chick?
If the audience does not share your message’s value judgment, your unstated assumption, then your message will fall flat, no matter how good the reasons.
This concept applies to all copywriting. You have to think about what value judgments you are asserting and whether your audience shares them.
Your persuasive writing can (and should) use a variety of reasons and unstated assumptions. However, if the unstated assumptions conflict, your message will contradict itself, and the audience will recognize this.
What if the sales pitch above continued…
Customer: But I’m not interested in looking like a model. I’d rather look more like a professional.
Retail Seller: This would be an excellent dress to wear to the office.
Customer: I said I want to look like a professional, not a “pro,” if you know what I mean.
The customer then shrugs and leaves, and that’s exactly what your audience will do if your underlying assumptions are inconsistent with themselves or with your audience’s.
Remember that the unstated assumption is a value judgment that says something is good, something is bad, something is worth doing, worth having. If you craft messages that share these values with your audience, your message will find fertile soil. Without them, your message will wither like trees planted in a desert.
How do you identify and test your underlying assumptions? Do you have any war – or success – stories to share?